Hamilton Tiger-Cats star quarterback Zach Collaros makes his return to the field Saturday when Hamilton heads to the West Coast to tangle with the B.C. Lions in Vancouver after an 11 month layoff due to an ACL tear last September. Collaros was on a ‘Most Outstanding Player’ type pace in 2015 before his injury while leading the Tabbies to an 8-3 record. The Ticats started off the year at 3-3 with Jeremiah Masoli at the helm and were able to keep pace with the two division leaders in the Ottawa Redblacks and the Toronto Argonauts. That bodes the question, will the Ticats return to last year’s form and regain their dominance atop the CFL East or will the Redblacks and Argos put their stamp on this season and make it their own?
Here’s three reasons from LWOS Writer Troy Durrell and Cole Shelton on why or why not Collaros on will make the Ticats front runners in the East.
Will Zach Collaros Turn the Tiger-Cats into East Division Favourites?
Why – Leadership
Leadership is one of the most important qualities Collaros possesses. No slight to Masoli who did an admirable job filling it for Collaros in his absence but Collaros just brings a presence to the team where everyone raises their level of play, and they have the feeling they’re going to not only win, but dominant teams week in and week out. He brings consistency and confidence to the offence, and keeps the defence off the field with long drives to keep them fresh. Collaros isn’t a “rah rah” in your face sort of player like fellow leader Simoni Lawrence, but he does bring intangibles to the table that very few players possess.
Why Not – Ottawa Redblacks
For sure Collaros brings leadership, however there is no forgetting about the defending East Division champions Ottawa Redblacks. This team is equally as good or better than last year. The Redblacks are currently the best team in the East and they are getting healthy again. Ottawa just got back Moton Hopkins, a very key guy on the defensive line. Ottawa is set to get back OL Nolan MacMillian, FB Brendan Gillanders, RB Travon Van and arguably the best player in the league before he got hurt, QB Trevor Harris. You can’t forget about the big four receivers Ottawa still has along with “DBlock” – the special name for their secondary unit – still continuing to dominate with many key injuries. Sorry but Ottawa is still the best team in the East until proven otherwise.
Why – He’s one of the best players in the league for a reason
Sure Ottawa won the East last season but that was without Collaros. Collaros hands down was the front runner and everyone’s choice for MOP last season before his injury, and if he can come in and put up numbers anywhere close to his 2015 campaign, Hamilton will score a lot of points. With Collaros playing, the black and gold were averaging almost 35 points a game. Through 6 games this season they’re averaging 24.6 points a game.
Hamilton currently ranks last in time of possession this season with Masoli at the helm, and because of it have had some slow starts to games. Couple that with the fact that the Ticats are near the bottom in second down conversions and two and outs, the defence is on the field an awfully long time during the course of the game. The go to last season for the Ticats was to have a quick start, and then tee up the defence on other teams quarterbacks and have the game put to bed by halftime. Collaros is one of the league’s best in second down conversions, so that will eat up more clock, therefore giving the defence more rest.
Why Not – BMO Field and Ricky Ray
Another reason why Hamilton isn’t the best team in the East with Collaros is the Toronto Argonauts are finally getting comfortable at BMO Field. The Argos play 6 of their last 11 games at BMO Field and the fans are starting to support. Another positive to make the Argos possibly the best in the East instead of Ottawa and Hamilton is that Ricky Ray is returning soon. Ray is arguably one of the best quarterbacks ever to play in the CFL. Ray has broken records and is still a very good quarterback and everyone knows you need a good quarterback to win games in the CFL. One thing Ray has that Harris and Collaros don’t is he is a winner, having won three Grey Cups. He is serious veteran that knows how to work the clock in close games that could push the Argos over the top.
Why – Home Field Advantage
The better home field team is Hamilton. Home field hasn’t been an advantage for teams so far this season, with the visitors owning an 18-10 record over the home team, but the Tabbies finish off the season with 4 of their last 5 games at home. The one road game in that stretch? October 21st, the second part of a back to back with the Redblacks. They might as well call Tim Hortons Field “Zach’s Field” as the Tiger-Cats have nearly been unbeatable in their relatively new home, with an 11-1 record with Collaros under center. The league has so much parity this season, and the return of a star player will only make things more interesting.
Why not – Collaros hasn’t played in almost a year
Sure Collaros is good at home but there is one small thing, Collaros hasn’t played a football game in 11 months. Almost a full calendar year, he can practise all he wants but practice isn’t the same a game. He hasn’t been rushed yet, he hasn’t been hit. Collaros has thrown to wide open receivers with no pressure on him at practice. Wait till he goes up against a very good B.C. Lions defence arguably the best in the league this year right off the bat. The Tiger-cats O-line hasn’t exactly been that great this year either and what makes it going to change with Collaros under center? Sorry Hamilton fans but Collaros won’t ride off into the sunset this year with Hamilton as East Division Champions.